Remembering our roots, gaining perspective.

I have been the non-profit executive director of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program, SCVRJP since 2005.  Prior to that, I was the board vice-chair, I was one of the first board members, I attended the first official board meeting.  I still have the letter, agenda and minutes.

SCVRJP is facing a financial transistion.

What that means is that a 3 year $135,000.00 grant has been fully distributed to us.  We have to wait one year from depositing that last check to ask again.  It was planned that over that 3 year period, SCVRJP would become self-sustaining, that we would develop revenue and income from our programs and services.  The fact we are a non-profit, makes it evident, we reach out and fill a need in our community.  Non-profits don’t operate with huge profits, SCVRJP was no different.

In making a go of it, we secured office space, added staff, added programs, added fundraisers and yet our budget did not balance.  We did more that what we could technically “afford” to do.  Our bank balances supported moving ahead and offering the much needed, much respected and unique service to our community.  Until now.

Now I am looking at how to streamline costs, who we might share occupancy with, how we might bridge a gap and not use up our reserve funds.  I am afraid, worried, concerned.  If I catastrophize I get to the end of the story as unemployed and homeless.

Then I remember a board meeting.  It was 2004, a letter to a foundation had resulted in $20,000.00.  The board was discussing hiring a staff person for the new non-profit, at the time called Pierce County Restorative Justice.  All board members were eager, willing, agreed.  My thought was negative.  Our bank balance way less than half of this new grant.  It occured to me to say “why hire someone, 6 months from now, we won’t have the funds to pay them”.  I didn’t voice that opinion, we hired a part-time coordinator, after 9 months, I took over that position.

SCVRJP started by serving 35 people in 2003.  We are going to serve just over 4,000 in 2010. 

Our annual budget grew from under $40,000 to just over $160,000. 

I thought it was impossible in 2004.  It might seem impossible for 2011.

SCVRJP recieved a 3 year grant for $135,000 and the last distribution was in May.  Our revenues are slightly less than anticipated and fundraising hasn’t brought it as much as expected.  The financial future looks impossible.

I am familiar with impossible because, Restorative Justice is full of things that seem impossible.  Victims seek healing by meeting with offenders, even in loss of life situations.  Offenders pay back their community by sharing their life story, even if it includes driving drunk and killing a friend.  Students who had so much conflict, expulsion was on the horizon, experience a Circle, reconcile and become friends.  I’ve witnessed people change before my very eyes and they are softened by the experience of being heard and listening.  Teens and parents address core issues in a Circle and tell us they will forever remember the experience.  I never would have guessed a middle school in Washington DC would be doing Circles because SCVRJP offers training.

Just like the brief and fleeting negativity I had in 2004, I have to have brief and fleeting fears about 2011.  I know how to make the impossible happen.  My focus is on fundraising and sustainability for SCVRJP, and someday I can look back and remember this negativity and see that the impossible was exactly what happened.

You can donate to SCVRJP at JUSTGIVE.